As I pulled into the Klockner Stadium parking lot, the Pep Band was playing the Good Ole Song for the field hockey team who had beaten Penn State an hour before our game started. It would prove to be a good omen as the Cavaliers handily dispatched the 12th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers and 1st year striker Diana Ordonez continued her stellar start.
WVU has an incredibly difficult Out-of-Conference slate, having lost already to #3 Stanford and with #7 Penn State and #13 Georgetown awaiting in the coming weeks. So full credit to coach Nikki Izzo-Brown for laying the toughest of gauntlets for a young team, that on this day started 7 freshmen. It’s a long season, but WVU has a long way to go as they fell behind early as Ordonez got her first goal of the game just five minutes in.
Notice I referenced Ordonez’s “first” goal. Twelve minutes later she had tallied her second, bringing her season scoring record to 8 goals in just 4 games. Both goals were the result of her strength on the ground and an ability to get a shot off in a thicket of legs. These were my favorite goals she’s scored precisely because of the difficulty in creating a clean shot in such tight quarters and it requires vision, composure and a never-say-die attitude. For the second straight game UVa was up 2 – 0 before the opposition logged a single shot.
This is simply deflating to the opposition and perhaps a more experienced team could have tried to work back into the game, but the nail was driven into the coffin when Alexa Spaanstra got the ball 40 yards from goal, ran straight at the defense, peeled out and struck the loveliest of balls into the top right of the goal.
As I am watching the game, I write down notes and time stamps for the purposes of making the highlight vids, and there were four times a play that I wanted to highlight started with: “Spaanstra drives.” Ordonez is going to capture the headlines (including mine) but Spaanstra is making the case that she’s the best player on the team and easily the most dangerous with the ball at her feet.
So by the 32nd minute, the game was effectively over as Virginia had a 3 goal lead and must have had 70% of the possession. Subs Alissa Gorzak and Ashlynn Serepca had perhaps their finest stints of the season on the top line, pressuring the West Virginia defense and playing aggressive defense on their own when WVU had the ball. Serepca’s two stints was as the central striker – we need wing play, not another central forward – but maybe she’s more suited to playing centrally. Sydney Zandi got a couple of extended runs as she works her way back to full match fitness and freshman Emma Dawson looked strong as a central midfielder in her two stints.
Just five minutes into the second half, Becca Jarrett made a fine run down the right, crossed the ball to a streaking Spaanstra, and forced a West Virginia own goal. That would conclude the scoring for UVa and over the next 20 minutes, Virginia sucked the life right out of the game.
For fans of the UVa men’s basketball team, we’ve started calling a sustained defensive stand, the bedrock of the men’s success over the past 6 years, a Cavalanche. As I have written before, Coach Steve Swanson’s women are just as capable of putting such a soul-sucking stranglehold on the game. At the 70 minute mark, all the trademark signs of a soccer Cavalanche were there, and I wrote it in my notebook. Alas, I jinxed the women because two minutes later, WVU scored off a poor clearance and with a shot that gave keeper Laurel Ivory no chance. It was a fine goal and a nicely taken effort.
That made the score 4 – 1 and it gave the Mountaineers a little hope and the chance to play for some respectability. They were energized and for maybe the next two minutes, they were on the front foot, playing with purpose and actually were a threat to score. They may have found some new hope, but they were not up to the task of out-playing and out-hustling the women on this day. Within a couple of minutes, Virginia had resumed dominance on the pitch and it was nice to see that defenders Claire Constant and Talia Staude and midfielder Dawson played strong, physical defense. That trio is going to be one strong, ball winning foundation for future years of ACC and NCAA success.
So here are the highlights:
<<Wailing sounds. Gnashing of teeth. Rending of garments. Beating of breasts.>>
I’m back. Apparently my video editor did NOT capture the video, only the audio, so we’ll have to rely solely on the University’s meager highlights.
EDIT: Finally (!) got highlights. It took a while....
Yes, she is strong in the air, but boy, did I completely miss her impact on the young season. What I have learned since is that Diana, much like Serepca and Spaanstra last year, graduated early from high school and enrolled at UVa last spring, precisely to be able to integrate into the team quickly. It worked for Spaanstra; it’s certainly paying dividends this year for the team, and for Ordonez.
The Uniform: Ugh. The women wear a pretty ugly uniform. It’s basically a box shirt with surprisingly long sleeves that are very tight. It seems like they are worse this year because the players are constantly rolling up their sleeves, fiddling with the jersey and tugging on the collar. I thought maybe it was just me who thought this way, but 3 out of 3 women surveyed (the three sitting next to me for the game) agreed: West Virginia had a much better looking uniform.
Next Up: Our 7-game homestand continues as #13 (and last year’s Final Four entrant) Georgetown comes to Klockner on Thursday and a Minnesota team that is reeling out of the gate arrives on Sunday.
Oh what the heck, enjoy this strike from Spaanstra again:
If you have any thoughts on the team, or the season so far, feel free to drop me an email at valentine@HoosPlace.com. Wahoowa!